Written by kiaibarretto@gmail.com on June 22, 2022

How To Grow A Backyard Fruit Forest That Maintains Itself Using All 7 Layers of permaculture and Planting Guilds

You might laugh at the thought of our article title because you think that backyard gardening can never grow on its own. You imagine the perfectly landscaped lawn with fresh roses and aesthetic gardening accessories. This is far from self-maintaining. 

Well, we hate to break it to you but that’s not the type of backyard we’d like to show you. 

In this article, we hope to bring showcase a simpler backyard gardening method, as well as give awareness on how to #Remediatetheworld through planting and soil health. 

Forests Are Self-Fertile And Self-Maintaining

The world we live in is blessed with abundant forests. Forests have been self fertilizing, self maintaining, and wild in nature. It is inarguably the provider and teacher of early mankind. It produces vast benefits to our civilization yet surprisingly, it requires less to no human maintenance at all. Forests can typically recycle themselves as food and fertilizers, a mechanism that helps them grow and expand. Forest ecosystems provide clean air, food, and materials for humanity. 

Today’s focus is fruit forests which are becoming popular among households today. Inspired by the natural forest mechanisms, fruit forests can give owners that organic, low-maintaining backyard dream. 

What Is A Fruit Forest?

A fruit Forest or commonly known as a forest garden is a type of backyard garden that typically mimics forest growth patterns. The goal of Forest Gardening is to make a land/area work or behave like a forest ecosystem, designed to foster greater biodiversity, and yield an edible harvest through low-maintenance agriculture. 

Fruit forest is an approach in permaculture which attempts to design a system that is eco-friendly, permanent, and sustainable.

No one waters, fertilizers, or sprays a forest. Yet, you see the most prolific growth and self fertilization happening before your eyes.  Our job as stewards of the land is to place the plants that are productive into our forest, fill the space so that noxious plants are out competed, and speed up the natural processes.  

With appropirate intervention, we can learn to work with rather than against nature. Our gardens, orchards, and landscapes can thrive if fill the space and step back.

7 Layers Of A Fruit Forest

On a regular in-ground garden, we commonly see the separation of plants based on their category, purpose, or size. A fruit forest garden changes these traditional garden systems.

In a fruit forest, different layers of plants are planted within the same space. Remember, the goal is to mimic natural forest growth. The layers of any natural forest system are categorized as follows:

  1. Canopy - The canopy layer consists of fruit, nut trees, and nitrogen-fixing trees that grow large and become the overstory.
  2. Sub-Canopy - The sub-canopy, or lower tree layer consists fruit trees that are shorter than canopy sizes. These can be large shrubs and dwarf trees or smaller fruit trees.
  3. Shrub/Bush Layer - The shrub layer are plants that take up the space below your smaller tree layer. These can consist of blueberries, raspberries, black berries, gooseberries, currants, service berries, and other fruit-producing bushes. You can also fill the space with nitrogen fixing bushes like pigeon pea, seaberry, goumi berries and more.
  4. Herbaceous Layer - The herbaceous layer consists of flowers, annuals, and perennials that fit between your shrubs and your ground cover.  Mint, strawberries, comfrey, herbs and other leafy greens fit into this category of plants.
  5. Soil surface/Ground Cover Layer - The soil surface is that ground cover that we typically think of as weeds and grass. With effective planning this can be a productive layer with smaller herbs like oregano, thyme, nasturtioums and more. Think of plants that you don’t mind in your garden and around your fruit trees that isn’t grass.
  6. Rhizonosphere Layer - The root crops layer consists of tubers like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, radish, turnips and more.
  7. Vertical Layer - This is the vining layer which includes  grapes, kiwis, chayote squash, lilikoi (passion fruit) and more. 

If you fill in all seven layers of fruit forest, there are less chances for weeds to grow. Weeds are misplaced plants that can take up much of your space and make it unproductive. 

If you are unfamiliar with the type of plants that belong to the 7 layers, you can use guilds to simplify your planting. Guilds are synergistic arrangements of groups of plants that support one another in all their many functions. 


If you are aspiring to grow your own fruit forest, it’s important to understand that it is your job to fill the space to outcompete the weeds. The more layers you can fill, the more productive your space will be and the less you have to maintain it. The fruit forest may look a little unsightly because of the massive amount of growth. You get to decide, what do you like your backyard? And what level of maintenance do you want to take on?

Make a choice. Either you maintain it, or you let it maintain itself.

Leave us a comment below with your thoughts about this article. 

#forestGarden #backyardgardening #fruitforest #guilds #gardening #lowmaintainancegarden

Article written by kiaibarretto@gmail.com

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